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Columns: An Open Letter on PVP

By Ryan Getchell on April 06, 2016

An Open Letter on PVP

Alright, Mr. Brian Wheeler, Lead PVP Designer on ESO... we need to talk and it’s not about class balances or AoE Caps, I promise. The Elder Scrolls Online is a fantastic game, but I feel it’s beginning to lack in a specific department, your department. I’m not saying Cyrodiil isn’t fun, it is, what I am saying is we need a change, an update, some love.


I know Cyrodiil has seen love, we’ve gotten the Imperial DLC and you’re constantly working on ways to improve the performance in Cyrodiil. That’s not what I want to talk to you about because I feel you’re doing a great job in those aspects. I know you want to ensure that ESO differs from Dark Age of Camelot and I fully agree.  This genre doesn’t need any more clones.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take concepts from it and design them to fit into Tamriel.

An easy example of this adaption is the Looking For Group tool. Prior to the last major patch the LFG was an unused feature that some players probably didn’t even know existed. Now it has become a great tool to find groups for dungeons but you’ve also taken on the concept of other games by incentivizing players, giving them a reward for doing it. I am completely against the idea of rewarding players for using a mechanic in the game but I understand that it’s now considered normal and an expectation in this genre.

Cyrodiil is massive.  Trying to get from one end of Cyrodiil to the other to get that last remaining skyshard feels like an eternity without a transport line open. There are plenty of wide open areas in Cyrodiil that never see any action because there is no reason to be there. Right now, the main fighting points are resources, keeps and the gates. In the grand scheme of it all the amount of real estate these places hold are very small in comparison to the overall size of the map. Cyrodiil needs more reasons to adventure outside of the main keep/gate areas to help distribute the players.

These areas don’t need to be difficult to capture and control. They’d be more designed for the smaller groups to do but would still contribute to the overall war effort. I will never run with a Zerg.  I can’t stand them and will do everything in my power to stay away from them. Because of this there are times when I log in to do some PvP and I’m running with a small group of friends.  Now we’re pigeon holed into a specific play style, gank group. We have too few players to successfully take a keep if a defense arrives.  We can take resources, but due to the easy ability of capture by the time we take the third one the first one is being taken back. It becomes a mindless game of resource hopping which serves no advantage to the overall war effort since we can’t effectively cut off a transport. Not to mention the incredibly slow Alliance Point gains this offers.

So why not add in small towns (that are already in the game but are not used) that can be contested and claimed by a Guild. Claiming the town doesn’t mean you own it, it’s a pledge of protection. Your guild offers its services to that town and protects its people from the war that is happening around them. The longer you protect the town the stronger and more productive it becomes by offering players of your alliance services.  Anything from Mystic Vendors, Armour/Weapon smiths or unique items that can only be purchased from guild controlled towns.

To take control of the town you’d need to kill the main guard NPC, similar to killing a Lord in a keep in DAoC. The better the town the better the guard and its difficulty will scale based on the amount of people who are hitting them. At its lowest difficulty it should be about the same as a 4 man veteran Dungeon Difficulty.

Guilds could also be asked to help supply the village with raw materials to help make it grow. Give the guild something to work towards.

So now that we’ve talked a bit about getting smaller style combat within Cyrodiil, what about offering combat outside of Cyrodill? Yup, that’s right, I’m going to kick the dead horse known as Battlegrounds.

This is an aspect that has been requested for a very long time. This is in large part because it’s been such a common feature within MMOs that players like to consider it a norm and I have to agree.

You’ve always stated that you don’t like the idea of battlegrounds because they will take players away from war in Cyrodiil and you’d be right, but is that an issue? Cyrodiil has major performance issues that I know you’d like to see resolved.  An option to do this is to give those who enjoy PvP another outlet instead of forcing them to play it out in Cyrodiil.

I’m not talking about the battlegrounds ESO has shown players at conferences. Personally those death match style maps offer nothing to what ESO is about. Instead I think you have the perfect opportunity to merge the MMO and MOBA genres together into an epic style of play.

Have a battle ground that is 12 vs 12 vs 12 where the sole team that is able to capture two enemy scrolls wins. This battle ground would have “lanes” and “jungles” for players to run through and hide in. You’d have to use siege items in order to get through the enemy walls and defense towers to get access to their scroll. Once you’ve gotten access to the scroll you’ll need to run it back to your base and place it in a tower to secure it. This battle ground is everything that ESO offers. Strategy, do you send all 12 players to the enemy side or do you keep players back for defense? Do you team up with the opposing faction to knock one of the enemies off and then battle each other, or worse, waiting until the enemy captures the scroll and then gank them as they are running it home? So many options that are identical to Cyrodiil just on a smaller scale.

I love Cyrodiil, but I think it’s about time we start seeing some options to make it more enticing for players. We’re running ragged doing the same old keep flips and gate fights.  Give us more, we crave it.

Ryan Getchell / Ryan is our resident Elder Scrolls nerd, and columnist for Zenimax's MMO. When he's not out killing things in Tamriel, he's working in IT professionally.